Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same
thing over and over and expecting different results.
That’s what comes to mind in a review of Education Secretary Richard
Riley’s new five-year plan to create more bilingual schools.
There is no empirical evidence that bilingual education, as practiced
in government schools today, produces students who speak and write
effectively in two languages. In fact, the more likely result is a
student who neither speaks nor writes effectively in either language.
Perhaps the most extensive study ever conducted comparing students in
English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes vs. bilingual education
classes took place in New York City between 1990 and 1994. The results?
Children placed in ESL in kindergarten had a 54 percent higher success
rate than peers in bilingual classes. Second-graders had a 205 percent
higher success rate. Sixth-graders had a 373.9 percent higher success
Right now, in Los Angeles, meanwhile, Riley and company are ignoring
yet more evidence of the failure of bilingual education and the success
of immersion in English. Since the passage of Proposition 227, which
sought to end bilingual education throughout the state of California, a
record number of Los Angeles Unified School District students learning
English have achieved fluency.
More than 32,400 students, or 10.3 percent of the district’s English
learners, made the transition to fluency between December 1998 and
December 1999, according to district records. That was the first full
year following the passage of Prop. 227. In the previous partial year,
9.9 percent achieved fluency. In the last full year of bilingual
education, 8 percent reportedly achieved fluency.
Now, I don’t know how these folks in government schools define
“fluency.” I’ve heard plenty of supposedly English-speaking kids who
didn’t sound fluent in any language. But, keep in mind, these statistics
are being reported by government education bureaucracies that adamantly
opposed efforts to end bilingual education. Nevertheless, the results are
But Riley and company and the federal education establishment ignore
the statistics. Why?
There’s only one logical conclusion. These are not stupid people. They
can read a report as easily as I can. The only thing I can think of is
that they don’t want Spanish-speaking kids to learn English, to succeed
in society, to excel through individual achievement.
Does that sound judgmental? Does it sound conspiratorial? Does it
sound mean? What else can we conclude? The evidence is in. There is no
data to support the notion that bilingual education works. Why continue
I believe the bilingual myth is perpetuated because Spanish-speaking
Americans are much more likely to be dependent on government — to
maintain a constituency of serfdom. That’s what I think. There is nothing
compassionate about miseducating students, about not teaching kids to
read, write and speak the language of the dominant culture.
What do government bureaucracies love more than anything else?
Customers. Dependents. Constituents. That’s what bilingual education
creates — more people for government to take care of, more reasons to
redistribute wealth, more reasons to empower government.
Riley and company say they want to help preserve the culture and
heritage of Spanish-speaking students through bilingual education.
Nonsense. What they want to preserve is their own culture and heritage of
The fact that government won’t acknowledge the very obvious about
bilingual education is a compelling illustration of why, ultimately, the
government needs to get out of the education business altogether. How
many other failures are being ignored? Bilingualism is simply the tip of
the iceberg. And the government education monopoly is like the Titanic in
search of a giant iceberg.